The thing we love the most about living in a van is the different gardens we have every day. Currently, we wake up in the Sahara desert, hence the Sahara van. It could be at the beach, on a mountain, in a forest or the centre of a city. This also means that we can wake up with new neighbours each day, often with different nationalities and backgrounds to share.
Meet Lotte and Gijs From Camper Elektra
Hi! We are Lotte & Gijs and together with our dog Noor, we’ve spent the last two years travelling through Europe in our self-build campervan!
Almost five years ago we met each other in a bar in Sydney. It was King’s Day; Yes, we have a Dutch national holiday for our king’s birthday! Lotte was studying architecture at the University of Sydney and Gijs was backpacking from Perth to Cairns. Our first date happened in Sydney, the second took place in Fiji, and the third on a sailboat in the Whitsundays. The fourth time that we met was in New Zealand, and by this time we knew that what we had was not casual. We were both in love with each other, and both in love with travelling.
How Did the Dream Begin?
As soon as we both arrived back in the Netherlands, we started making new travel plans. The idea was to build a campervan in Canada and drive the Pan American Highway, from Alaska to Chili. These plans had to wait a bit, though, because Lotte needed to finish her studies and some money had to be earned.
We prepared: looked online for vans and housing for the first weeks, and we even got our American B2 visa. And for those who have done it, you know how much effort that takes! Our flight was booked at the beginning of April 2020. You guessed it, COVID put a stop to that and new decisions had to be made. We decided to start more locally and looked at thousands of vans online. The first one that we visited quickly became ours. We named it Bas! It was a white Mercedes Sprinter from the year 2011. With a high roof and medium wheelbase which was perfect for us and our plans.
Their Van Build
The building process was an amazing experience. We both love to work with our hands and seeing a project like this coming to life was awesome. So, truth be told, we will probably build one again!
The build took us roughly 12 months. We worked in the evenings, at weekends, on holidays, and even throughout the Dutch winter. Many days were spent just standing in the van, thinking about the next step instead of working. With the experience we have now, the next build would probably be a lot smoother.
The Design Priorities
During the design process, we had one priority. To have a fixed bed. This required a bit of creativity, as Bas is not the longest van and Gijs is a very tall man. Sleeping along the width of the van was not possible, so we decided to build the bed in the length. We built a fixed bed which is 1.5m long by 1.4m wide. An extra cushion can extend the length by another 55 cm and when not in use, creates the backrest for our seat.
Another necessity was two separate closets. This was very indeed a good idea, as we anticipated. Now Gijs can fold his clothes neatly and has all his black and white socks in one place. Lotte, on the other hand, can shove all of her colourful clothes inside, hoping that the door will close.
Moving Into the Sahara Van
Once our home on wheels was complete, we decided to take our first trip towards North-Western Europe. This became a 2-month journey through Sweden and Norway. We were so excited to travel and wanted to see as much as we could. Believe it or not, this became quite exhausting. After these two months, we discovered slow travelling. We began driving a maximum of one hour per day and staying longer at each spot along the way. We must admit, that is our thing now. Most recently we visited Morocco which took us 5 months to arrive from the Netherlands. Here we decided to repaint our van!
What Is It Like to Live on the Road?
The thing we love the most about living in a van is the different gardens we have every day. It could be at the beach, on a mountain, in a forest or in the centre of a city. This also means that we can wake up with new neighbours each day, often with different nationalities and backgrounds to share.
Another reason that we love this lifestyle, is that we get to spend it together. Almost everything we do, we do together. We are each other’s life partners, Noor included, and we get to see much more of each other than just returning home from work each evening.
On the other hand, it is not always perfect. Some things make this life more challenging, like cleaning our toilet. We have a chemical toilet that has to be emptied every 3-5 days, depending on how much we poop. In the next van build, we would prefer a dry toilet, like the BOXIO separating toilet. Not only will cleaning a dry toilet be easier and more sustainable, but it’ll also be faster because now, we have to find a suitable place. That’s either a campsite or a dump station, neither of which makes us excited. The same goes for filling and emptying the water, stuff like this takes time and is not always very fun to do.
How Do They Fund This Lifestyle
Fulltime living in a campervan is a dream for the most part, but of course, it costs money. We don’t keep track of every penny we spend, but our monthly expenses are between €1000 and €1600 per month. This depends strongly on which country we travel through, and if we have some extra expenses for Noor. Fortunately, we can compensate for these expenses by working online.
Lotte is an architectural designer and can work remotely for a company back in The Netherlands. It is on a freelance basis, which means that she can work whenever she has the time and an assignment is available. This is extremely flexible, but when there is no work, there is no income. It must be said that the opportunity to work like this is a bit rare in the field of architecture, and therefore we can be very grateful.
Gijs has a blog about campervan electronics. During our build, he found the electrical department to be the most fun. He has a background in technical engineering and found the information online to be completely scattered. Plus, there were countless questions online from DIY van lifers who couldn’t find a clear answer. This was a problem that he wanted to fix, and fortunately, he could.
What Is Camper Elektra?
The idea came to mind while building our van, but it came to life once we started travelling. It contains numerous blogs about all aspects of camper van electrics. There is also a calculator to confirm your daily usage and an interactive wiring diagram to assist with creating your electrical system! This is soon to become a new extensive wiring diagram with more additional options. Further, he will be creating an eBook explaining the campervan electrics simply, from start to finish!
Words of Advice
Here’s what we learned while travelling for two years-
People without social media have the best stories to tell!
Find Them Here:
Website: Camper Elektra
If you enjoyed reading this post, then you may be interested in checking our blog pages. We have covered a range of topics about Van Life, Van Build, Van Travel, and our Van Buddies, where we share our experiences from living in a campervan for the past two years. You can follow us on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date with our latest posts and to take a closer look into our daily lives.